Combating Hate Speech in the Middle East and North Africa

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Amman recently participated in a two-day roundtable meeting held in Tunisia and organized by both the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa and the Country Office in Tunisia.

The meeting aimed at assessing progress made in combating hate speech and incitement to hatred and violence, within the framework of the Rabat Action Plan adopted in October 2012. Media, civil society organizations, national institutions, judges, journalists and some activists participated in the meeting.

The meeting also aimed at discussing a draft training manual, produced jointly between the Raoul Wallenberg Institute and the regional office of the UN OHCHR in Lebanon, related to judicial practices in the protection of freedom of expression and prohibition of incitement to hatred.

The manual is being developed as a direct outcome of the recommendations of the Rabat Plan of Action workshops, organized to respond to the political fluctuations and social movements accompanied with the growing incidents of racial, religious and sectarian violence affecting the region recently.

“Such incidents led some countries to create certain policies to criminalize incitement to hatred, hence adding constrains on freedom of expression,” says Eman Siam, Senior Program Officer at the regional office in Amman. “Supporting judges (as protectors of rights and freedoms) with the tools and mechanisms to recognize the threshold for defining limitations on freedom of expression and defining incitement to hatred is what constitutes the core material of this manual.”

The outcome of this event has been used to feed into the second follow-up meeting that took place in Rabat December 6-7, 2017 discussing future prospects in the MENA region and means of implementation of the Rabat Action Plan adopted in 2012.

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